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Beyond Helvete > MMXX > Reviews > Edmund Sackbauer
Beyond Helvete - MMXX

Beyond Helvete - MMXX - 82%

Edmund Sackbauer, September 7th, 2023
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Immortal Frost Productions (Limited edition)

Beyond Helvete is still a very special case: a solo and obviously very personal project by Natrgaard, a German musician who seems to have done quite a bit from a very young age, under whose name two debut albums were released in quick succession, in 2011 and 2012. These are works that we'd probably be a little too quick to describe as DSBM, because, despite their thematic focus on depression and loneliness, the compositions are more varied than that term usually implies. Some approach this sub-genre through their repetitive, haunting aspect, while others suddenly veer towards a roughness closer to fundamental black metal. The only real common thread: Natrgaard's tortured voice, chanting his dark ideas about nature, humanity and his relationship with the ideal of personal fulfillment in obsessive convolutions. And then nothing. Eight years of silence, without the slightest sign of life from any of the man's known musical projects, which in his case was as likely to suggest a salutary redemption as a tragic end.

Eight years later, Beyond Helvete returned with their third album, entitled “MMXX”, the new number symbolizing all calamities. Eight years of radio silence does not mean that no progress was made in terms of development. What this band brought to this new album shows a lot more maturity. It also seems more like Beyond Helvete has quietly found its own identity. “MMXX” is an diverse album guided by black metal, with a good dose of sludgy doom/death riffs and here and there a bulky foray into classic heavy metal. Right from "The Way To Entelechy", the guitar resounds, as repetitive as it is heady, while the recognizable voice swirls in a haze of sound effects quite reminiscent of previous moods, but "Signs In The Sand" offers us a more aggressive instrumentation, nervous even, which distances Beyond Helvete somewhat from black metal proper. There is even a subtle hint of 90s US hardcore punk in the molten lead riffs and breaks of "Crowd of Faceless". In any case, the singer even indulges in a discreet passage of clear vocals, which is not lacking in appropriateness.

If “MMXX” marks an opening towards influences different from the black metal canons that remained dominant on Beyond Helvete's first two albums, the individual tracks can nevertheless seem a little repetitive. This is probably intentional as it makes the few variations all the more effective, from the manic, aggressive phase of "From The Knowledge Of Ignorance" to the long agony of hope on the final note of "The Search For Truth". A disconcerting album, and admittedly sometimes imperfect, “MMXX” nonetheless boasts moments of power capable of stirring up the neophyte listener. As for early Beyond Helvete fans this album might come a bit as surprise. Writing this review in 2023 and being familiar with his most recent output “Anthem of Decay” I can safely say that the journey is not over and Beyond Helvete is nearing its final and most exciting form. This is also true for the production values which are improved on “MMXX”, but still lack that extra punch and clarity shown on their 2022 album. All in all a very interesting band and depending what kind of black metal you prefer you can choose between the different eras.